Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Album Review: Michael Schenker Fest - Resurrection

Michael Schenker is a tough guy to get a handle on. He claims not to listen to music other than his own, and has had volatile relationships with everyone he has ever worked with. That's the reason for this album under the title Michael Schenker Fest, as opposed to Michael Schenker Group or just his own name. He has spent his entire career bouncing around from name to name, never staying with one singer long enough to build something lasting. This time, he gathers four of the singers he has previously worked with, and puts them together on a single album. I suppose it's his own tribute to himself. He does seem to have an ego.

With Robin McCauley, Graham Bonnet, Gary Barden, and Doogie White behind the mic, you would think there is more than enough talent here to make this the best Michael Schenker album in years. I have missed a few along the way, so I'm not sure if I can say that. What I can say is that while this may be a nice trip down memory lane for Schenker and his longtime fans, it's also evidence of how much age takes a toll on singers. Simply put, a lot of these vocals aren't all that good.

Bonnet and McCauley both struggle with their performances, not willing to admit they aren't their younger selves. Barden fares the best, as his understands the limitations of his current voice, and makes accommodations for it. White is still in fine voice, but he falls into that category of singers who I recognize as good, but never liked. With four singers, only one of whom delivers for me, it starts things out on a sour note.

The other problem is that as Schenker has gotten older, and due to the lack of new influences that he allows himself to hear, he is treading the same ground he always has. This album, both by choice and by nature, is just like every other Michael Schenker album of the last twenty years. A virtuoso soloist but average songwriter, the tired riffs he keeps tweaking to make new albums wind up putting more and more emphasis on the fading vocalists. Even the tempos of the songs have been slowing through the years, which plays into the overall trend.

The opening tracks, "Heart And Soul" and "Warrior" trudge along with flaccid riffs and flat vocals, neither one offering anything of a hook. They're both incredibly basic songs. "Night Moods" picks things up with a solid build and a strong chorus, but it's ruined by Bonnet's horrendous vocals. The first few lines are beyond dreadful, and even if he does improve as he belts more of the notes, the damage has been done already. When Doogie takes the lead for "The Girl With The Stars In Her Eyes", not only does the energy of the song help immensely, but Doogie is able to make the hook stick. It's a real sign of hope.

Even Schenker's soloing on this album is restrained and non-descript. He doesn't stand out at all on an album that has his name right at the top. It strikes me while listening to this album that this might simply be a case of someone thinking it was enough to have the four singers return, and not caring about the quality of the material. That's my only explanation, because this is a completely lifeless version of Michael Schenker that doesn't add anything to his legacy. This isn't "Strangers In The Night". This isn't "MSG". This isn't even "In The Midst Of Beauty" (the underrated late-career gem).

If Michael Schenker Fest is supposed to represent a celebration, it's not one you would want to go to. This is more of a wake than a party. Unless you are the most die-hard Schenker fan, I don't know why you would want to listen to this, when there are so many better options out there already this year.

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